CBS Sports graphic

This has been one of the most volatile seasons in the brief history of the College Football Playoff Rankings. Championship Week did not disappoint as four of the eight conference championship games involving at least one ranked team saw a lower-rated team win.

That means there is some churning ahead the final CFP Rankings, which will be released Sunday afternoon, even though many teams did not play this week. 

As a reminder, here is the criteria that CFP Selection Committee members consider when building the rankings each week:

  • Strength of schedule
  • Conference championships (once decided)
  • Head-to-head
  • Results vs. common opponents
  • Results vs. ranked opponents

The committee's definition of "ranked opponents" is different than what you're used to seeing as they use the prior week's CFP Rankings. They do not consider where teams are ranked when the games were played either in the CFP, AP Top 25, etc. Using game-time rankings is the most worthless way to determine "ranked opponents". In fact, the committee specifically forbids the use of any poll that has a preseason starting point.

There are also criteria that are not specifically listed and will likely never be said out loud by anyone. Those include things like margin of victory. Teams cannot always control their strength of schedule, but they can take strides to make up for a weak one by dominating the opponents they do face.

Also, when it comes to game control, the cat is no longer in the bag. Despite telling me at a mock selection meeting in October that game control was something the committee never discussed, they are now openly talking about the concept despite it being based on an eye test. Chairman Gary Barta was asked how much the committee takes a team's ability to control games into account, saying: "Controlling wins, if you think about watching games, that's more important than just a team that's just running up the score in my opinion."

With that in mind, here is how I expect the final CFP Rankings to look upon their release Sunday afternoon. You can also check out our full Expert Picks selections for the playoff field. 

Note: My complete playoff and bowl projections can be found here.

College Football Playoff Rankings prediction

Just when you thought it was safe to give up on the Crimson Tide. Georgia's vaunted defense was no match for Bryce Young, who led Alabama to a blowout of the Bulldogs and the SEC title. Last week: 3
Michigan dominated the Big Ten title game and won the conference crown outright for the first time since 2003. Last week: 2
The Bulldogs' dominance over the course of the regular season will ensure a spot in the CFP, but they would like to forget Saturday. Last week: 1
The Bearcats finished off a perfect season with a win at home over Houston to win the AAC championship. They will likely be the first team ever from the Group of Five to get into the playoff. Last week: 4
Off. Last week: 6
Baylor held on by a thread to beat Oklahoma State for the Big 12 title and earn a spot in the Sugar Bowl. Last week: 9
Off. Last week: 7
Off. Last week: 8
The Cowboys came up just a half yard short of a big comeback win over Baylor. Instead of a playoff berth, Oklahoma State will likely be in the Fiesta Bowl. Last week: 5
Off. Last week: 11
Off. Last week: 12
Off. Last week: 14
Utah throttled Oregon for the second time in three weeks to earn the Pac-12 title and its first ever berth in the Rose Bowl. Last week: 17
Pittsburgh ran away from Wake Forest in the second half to win its first ever ACC championship. The Panthers will play in a New Year's Six game, most likely the Peach Bowl. Last week: 15
The season started with so much promise for the Ducks after winning at Ohio State. It never came to fruition though as they suffered two big losses to Utah. Last week: 10
The Hawkeyes never got anything going offensively and never had a chance against Michigan. I do not expect the committee to be too harsh with them, though. After all, they played the No. 2 team. Last week: 13
The Demon Deacons fell apart in the second half against Pitt, but they are still going to stay ahead of the ACC teams behind them. Last week: 16
Off. Last week: 18
Off. Last week: 20
Off. Last week: 22
Houston should not suffer too badly in the rankings after losing at Cincinnati. The committee is usually relatively kind to lower ranked teams that lose conference championship games. Last week: 21
The Ragin' Cajuns finished off their season with a win in the Sun Belt title game over Appalachian State. That was the final game for coach Billy Napier, who is off to Florida. Last week: 24
Off. Last week: 23
Off. Last week: 25
Off. Last week: NR

The College Football Playoff selection show is on the horizon. Before the field of four is announced, the Cover 3 Podcast looks back at all that happened during Conference Championship Week, providing analysis and insight you can't get anywhere else.